If I'm to believe the date printed under the masthead of the Volume II, Number 4 edition of Nick Snow's The Mountain Flower newspaper (Park City and the World), time is indeed warped. Nov. 5, 1973, you see, wasn't forty-years back. It was yesterday!
That's how long ago, it seems, that I pulled into a gas station on a somewhat blustery afternoon in Park City and picked up the latest issue of the old mining camp's first ever "alternative" news rag. It came out of Nick's car trunk, which just happened to be parked at the adjacent pump.
This wasn't really part of the "car-trunk economy" in which newcomers to town often participated back in those days but, rather, we had just bumped into each other during one of his distribution rounds. That was the part of the process that usually followed his newsgathering, pub research, story writing, laying-out the pages, and trips to and from the printer.
It wasn't much of a stretch to find Nick filling up his gas tank. His day job as environmental editor at the then-afternoon daily Deseret News in Salt Lake City, coupled with his Mountain Flower labor-of-love further up in the Wasatch Range, had him putting his vehicle through its paces much of the day, every day.
When reading through the now-somewhat-yellowed copy of that particular issue of TMF, there are both similarities and contrasts aplenty to the then-and-now timeframes as the ski-town geared up for the annual onslaught.
Above the fold (newspaper term) and under the banner headline "The Ski Season Approacheth" appeared a photo looking down the old gondola line toward the angle station featuring a summit-bound cabin with a couple of no-doubt marketing-department types on their way to sample some pre-opening October powder. Some things never change. Like my jealous streak.
Flaunting $12.5 million worth of improvements and with a projected opening date that year of Nov. 17, The Resort was feeling pretty good about itself. The addition of the town's first triple chairlift (King Con), the opening of the U.S. Ski Team Training Center, and expanded base area facilities all added to its self-esteem.
What with a half-block recently burned to the ground, Main Street was also in flux as businesses readied for the season. The Claim Jumper was taking over the entire New Park Hotel building where it had formerly been a downstairs restaurant and bar, Dolly's and Kindersport were in the old Olpin Mortuary, and The Club, where cobwebs once flowed from moose antler to spittoon, was undergoing a complete restoration.
A separate story told of the Red Banjo moving to a second location upstairs in the resort lodge once occupied by the Red Room Steakhouse just off the Rusty Nail Lounge. Below-the-fold, Nick reported the City Council and The Resort's plan to work together to solve Park City's then-ongoing water and sewage treatment problems.
Flipping over to page 2, the reader is greeted by an editorial section worthy of TMF's young and hip target demographic. With Richard Milhous Nixon remaining in the White House until the following August, you just know it was a target-rich environment. Across the top of the page ran Jules Feiffer's latest syndicated cartoon strip -- this one dealing with Nixon's impending impeachment.
Another of Nick's treats to the faithful reader was the inclusion of San Francisco Chronicle nationally syndicated columnist Arthur Hoppe. In this issue, Hoppe allows us a fly on the wall perspective of a hilariously sardonic draft counseling session between Mr. and Mrs. Wasp and their son Irving.
Local airline pilot and City Councilman Bob Hays also contributed a political column under the nom de plume Chicken Hawk. Hays, an insider with spot-on sarcasm in his holsters, never shied from putting himself and his brethren under the microscope, including those he liked. He always did his best to warn them away from City Hall.
The PLACES page on the back was often my favorite stop due to Nick's alter ego Phil Rupp's witty characterizations of the local pub scene. This time we were treated to the habitués of the Alamo, the Club Car 19, the Cozy, the Handle Bar, Solid Muldoons, Ricky's Cantina, and others. I still get East Coast quaffing reviews from Phil Rupp through communiqués with his longtime cohort Nick Snow, who has lived in the D.C. area for years.
As mentioned, TMF was a labor of love. With a business model that sold $3.00 subscriptions for 24 issues along with hip advertising clients the likes of the Human Ensemble Repertory Theatre, Rounder Records, and the Handle Bar, overhead would always be an issue. (I have to assume that Phil Rupp had a trade-out tab going at Phil Thalman's joint.)
With this issue came the end of The Mountain Flower. Park City's street scene would no longer have a rag to call its own. For those who were regular readers and sometime contributors over its short but highly creative lifespan, however, it was one grand experiment in alternative journalism. Thanks, Nick! Forty years in the blink of an eye.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.